No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies
Why the Spurs Will Win in Seven: In order for the Spurs to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007, they will have to contain the most dangerous inside tandem left in the playoffs in defensive player of the year Marc Gasol and all-star Zach Randolph.
San Antonio gets the grit-and-grind Grizzlies after finding a way to slow down speed-racing upstart Golden State in six games. Memphis plays a more physical, controlled, defensive-oriented style that is the antithesis of the team San Antonio just faced but the Spurs are built to play multiple styles and already are prepared for a slugfest, with Tim Duncan declaring that this series “isn’t going to be pretty.”
The Grizzlies are in the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history after dethroning the defending conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio is still smarting from blowing a 2-0 lead against Oklahoma City in the conference finals last season. The Spurs are also seeking revenge for a first-round loss to Memphis two years ago.
Difference Maker: Tim Duncan, Spurs. The Spurs split the regular season series, winning two games with Duncan playing well (averaging 23 points and 11.5 rebounds) and Memphis winning one game in which Duncan played poorly (13 points, on 5 of 14 shooting) and another in which Duncan didn’t play at all.